My name is Fin, I’m 13 years old and I was born with autism. For me, this means social situations are ‘out the window’. I have no ‘off button’ and I get exhausted easily. I have sky-high anxiety that has prevented me from attending school since grade 4. Public transport, family get-togethers and celebrations…. anywhere there are groups of people is a nightmare.
Mum, Dad and I tried distance ed, home schooling, part time school with an aide. Also attempted four different schools over the years, but I have incredible noise sensitivities, so the classrooms are too stressful for me.
My doctors have all tried to help me cope with my feelings of being out of control. I have tried many treatments OT, psychology, speech and psychiatric therapy, medications, adaptions and just plain old time out from society. It all helped bit by bit, but the biggest change happened in October 2018.
Mum had forgotten she’d put me on the waiting list for the RDA program two years prior. So when we received the call from Janet at the RDA Viewbank Centre we were surprised. I was accepted into the program on Thursday mornings!
I was so excited as something I haven’t told you is that I LOOOVVVEE animals.
From the first day at RDA I fell in love. It was like I was in the country with the parklands surrounding the paddocks and the clear fresh air. Then I met Gem the horse. She was a gentle old girl and a little stubborn. She liked to eat and fart a lot. I felt different straight away. I had more energy and confidence.
When I’m with the horses I forget all my worries and I focus on them. They are beautiful, gorgeous creatures and super fun to be around because I understand them. I understand when they are hungry, grumpy, tired, happy, gaseous, etc., much easier than humans.
Phoebe, my coach, has been super happy with my progress. From day one I was up on the horse and able to sit and ride. The feel of the horse under me, moving without having my own feet on the ground, makes me feel calm. I feel a ‘together’ person when on horseback. I leave my worries behind.
In February Phoebe decided I needed a bigger, more challenging horse. My riding skills were improving, and I was getting stronger. She introduced me to Harley, a big white horse. I love him.
When I am riding Harley, I can easily be social and my anxiety melts away. The only thing that matters is Harley and me.
RDA gives me a break from my anxiety and I can exercise effortlessly, which is very important in helping manage my anxiety symptoms. My confidence has increased, and I am learning and achieving things, things my family and friends haven’t. This is important to me. I can now mount a horse, dismount, walk and trot on Harley. I am the best rider in the family!
RDA has also let me be involved in looking after the horses and Marg, one of the volunteers, has taught me to mix dry horse feed, shovel poo, saddle up, tie horses with a quick release knot and give a quick saddle massage. I love doing all this as much as riding.
Since starting RDA my confidence has grown to the point where I have returned to school four days a week, two hours each day. On Thursdays I attend RDA, complete my lesson, and help with looking after the horses. The school counts that day as ‘school’ as I love it and learn so much.
Mum and Dad say that I am a different person when I am on horseback and around the horses. I can hold a conversation effortlessly and am genuinely laughing and happy. I am not ‘masking’ my emotions.
RDA has changed my life. I know now that horses must be part of my life forever.